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East Marion parcel, once home to an oyster factory, could be zoned for residential use

The Southold Town Board revisited conversations about rezoning an abandoned oyster factory in East Marion, popularly known as the “Oki-Do” property, at a work session Tuesday.

The 18.3-acre parcel has been “languishing for years,” Supervisor Scott Russell said at the meeting, adding, “We asked the Planning Board to look at it, maybe revisit some different zoning issues to make the property certainly more consistent with the surrounding area.” 

According to an analysis presented at Tuesday’s work session, the property is in a primarily residential area. Initially an industrial and now a Marine II district, the land had been zoned based on its former use as an oyster factory.

“We did an analysis of all our Marine II-zoned parcels,” planning department director Heather Lanza said at the work session. “There’s really nothing else like it. Maybe one has that much land area; the rest of them could be that big but they have a lot of underwater land.”

Marine II zoning permits a property to be used for “a wide range of water-dependent and water-related uses,” including commercial marinas, boatyards, restaurants, hotels and ferries. The town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan contemplated using the site for public water access in the early 2000s, but its restoration was “beyond the means of the Town to accomplish,” according to the Planning Board’s analysis.

The land was considered for other ventures over the years, including a sustainable fishery and a resort and wellness center that “fizzled,” according to Ms. Lanza.

The report argues the area should be rezoned for the safety of nearby residents, as increased traffic along Shipyard Lane could endanger cyclists and pedestrians, and because its current zoning is “no longer compatible with surroundings.”

“The current zoning of Marine II on this relatively large parcel provides the potential for a commercial use at a scale that is too intense for the existing neighborhood,” the analysis notes. It adds that a large commercial development “could have a significant adverse impact on the surrounding area.”

The Planning Board suggested rezoning the abandoned oyster factory as either a low-density Residential-80 district or a low-density Residential-40 district, both of which would prioritize residential use of the land.

“If you did it all R-80 or R-40, you’d be solving the problem of your transition-zone to commercial because you have all residential around this,” Ms. Lanza said. She added that R-80 zoning would allow between six and eight single-family homes and R-40 zoning would allow between 12 and 15. Both scenarios would require setting aside 60% of the land as open space. 

The Planning Board also suggested potentially splitting the zoning to foster both residential and commercial development, which would retain “some commercial use for the property at a scale that is more compatible with the neighborhood.” A resort hotel would be included among the businesses permitted under this zoning. 

The Town Board plans to discuss the analysis in further detail at its next work session in two weeks.